To continue with a similar idea to my post last week, and incorporate some things from this week, I looked into a film that I know is influential to some people I knew in the Kansas City area. Ride With the Devil was directed by Ang Lee and based on the novel Woe to Live On by Daniel Woodrell. The movie and novel take place along the Missouri-Kansas border in the Civil War period. The main character, Jake Roedel (played by Toby Maguire), joins a band of bushwhackers with his friend Jack Bull Chiles (Skeet Ulrich), when Chiles’ father is killed by a group of pro-Union guerrillas. The film is pertinent because it unabashedly forwards a Lost Cause mythology, and it is interesting because the mythology has some very distinctly Missourian facets.
Several elements of the Lost Cause are present in Ride With the Devil. First, similarly to how the South claimed to be up against insurmountable odds in terms of manpower and industry, Roedel, Chiles, and their guerrilla comrades have to face not only rival partisans, but at times whole armies of Union troops. And they do so with out even real military backup. Secondly, the Jayhawkers (pro-Union Kansan guerrillas) and Union troops are portrayed as invaders and destroyers of Missourians’ way of life from the beginning of the film. In contrast, the bushwhackers are represented as the sons of poor farmers who take to the woods to defend their homes and property. Thirdly, the issue of slavery is barely dealt with, except when showing the pro-Southern bushwhackers having freed a slave. This former slave, Daniel Holt, is shown being so grateful to his liberator that he, too, takes up arms against the Union.
One significant divergence from Lost Cause orthodoxy is the brutality of the protagonists. Throughout the film, they are seen acting without mercy, and generally un-gentlemanly. The culmination of this behavior is when they sack the town of Lawrence, Kansas, with guerrilla chief William Quantrill.
When I saw the movie, I thought it was so-so. When I looked back at it with some more understanding of the Lost Cause, I can see how it perpetuates the ideology in a unique way in the Missouri-Kansas border region.
 Daniel McCarthy, “Ride With the Devil,” LewRockwell.com, March 27, 2001, accessed 6/28/2012 at http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig/dmccarthy8.html.
 Ride With the Devil, directed by Ang Lee (Universal City, CA: Universal Pictures, 1999), HD Stream from Netflix.
 Ride With the Devil.